Decarbonisation & Net Zero

Flex Process is a leader in applying advanced process simulation tools to solve our client’s difficult problems – and no problem is more challenging than the race to Net Zero.

We specialise in working with the process industry and other industries, including heavy industry, which is locked into existing technologies and processing routes, that are difficult to change. Our data analysis, digitalisation and advanced simulation abilities provide significant opportunities for introducing energy efficiency and emission reduction opportunities, both in the short-term and long-term. Our experience shows that there are still many opportunities for short-term energy efficiency improvements that are relatively easy to find using our techniques. The outcome of our initial program then forms a foundation enabling you to develop your long-term strategy and road map to implement new technologies and make the step change reduction in emissions required to meet your objectives.

The steps on the way to net zero can be profitable. Our advanced simulation tools enable us to optimise your plant and reduce your energy use and emissions, often at the same time as increasing your throughput and yield. Where you are considering new, cleaner technologies, we can model your new process and optimise it before it is built, greatly improving the project performance and economics, and reducing project risk.

The initial step to reduce GHG emissions is typically energy efficiency and optimisation of your existing assets. Our experience is that there are still many opportunities to achieve improvements at minimal capital cost. We achieve these by applying our simulation techniques to find these opportunities. To go further often requires an innovative approach and the addition of new technologies through the application of the principles of green chemistry and green engineering. If these principles are applied appropriately and in the case of new builds, are applied in a timely manner, then major improvements to the emissions, environmental, and safety performance are often possible.

Flex Process can help you with developing your plans to reduce your GHG emissions as well as with their implementation.

Much of industry and many of our clients have made commitments to reduce their emissions, and in some cases, have committed to Net Zero. This is not easy to achieve, and many organisations are struggling to meet the challenge. The crux of the problem is that most processes are highly complex and interconnected and must operate under very specific conditions. This means that simple solutions such as fuel switching are often not effective, or even practical.

At Flex Process, we do not see Decarbonisation and GHG reductions in isolation, we believe in a holistic approach, improving your environmental performance, reducing, and optimising your energy use, as well as optimising the efficiency, throughput and yields of process plants. Energy savings is about so much more than switching fuels, building design, lighting, insulation, and more efficient motors, we believe it is about the insides of the process and making that work efficiently. Flex Process staff are expert chemical engineers and process simulation experts who thrive on applying an innovative approach to difficult challenges. We understand your process and can identify ways of improving energy efficiency without adversely affecting the efficiency, integrity, or safety of the process. Our modelling specialists can develop models that detail the effects of proposed solutions allowing them to be optimised within the overall design.

Often, the first step is to optimise your existing design, looking for opportunities to improve yields and separation efficiencies, or push the capacity so that the unit energy use per unit of production is reduced. We believe that most plants even new ones can improve by 5 or 10%, relatively easily. Surprisingly, new builds recently delivered by EPCs are especially lucrative for this, since the EPC focus was on getting the plant built on time and on budget and optimising the process was never done. At Flex Process we will build a model of your process which we will calibrate to accurately reflect its operation. We will then use this model to optimise the design. Only small changes are typically required, and the modelling work is likely to pay for itself very quickly.

In the next stage we can consider many different technical options to improve your process and incorporate them in the existing model, for example:

  • Process Optimisation.
  • Pinch studies and energy integration.
  • Combustion efficiency.
  • Steam system optimisation.
  • Low temperature energy recovery from flue gas.
  • Heat pumps.
  • Use of low-level waste heat.
  • Energy recovery from pressure let down.
  • Variable speed drives (removing energy wasting control valves).

Where major changes are required, Flex Process understand that a long-term approach is required, possibly phased. Flex Process will assist you by providing a road map if appropriate. All our recommendations will be well-engineered, cost-effective, and safe solutions that add value and get the right balance between capital, operating costs, environmental and safety performance. Where significant investment is required Flex Process can assist with the project design. In many cases external funding is available for these types of projects and we can assist you in preparing a strong case in your application.

The 12 principles of green chemistry and the 9 principles of green engineering overlap to some extent, as do the principles of inherent safety. Depending on where you are in the project lifecycle then different aspects of these principles can be applied. The concept is to regularly review a design as it develops and check it (or specific parts of it) against these principles, always striving for a balance between the lifecycle economic performance of the plant and the environmental and safety performance.

The principles can be applied at all stages of a project and on an operating facility, although bigger impacts are generally easier to achieve earlier on in the project life cycle. At Flex Process we will work with the client, typically leading workshops, or alternatively using a checklist approach to review the design looking for opportunities to improve the plant performance. Coupled with our advanced modelling techniques, we are often able to identify opportunities and test them, before any actual changes are made to the plant or the design, thus enabling cost effective improvements at low risk.

There are various variations of these principles, but all are similar. The version listed here that Flex Process base our work on is from the American Chemical Society.

The 12 principles of green chemistry:

  1. Prevention
  2. Atom Economy
  3. Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses
  4. Designing Safer Chemicals
  5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries
  6. Design for Energy Efficiency
  7. Use of Renewable Feedstocks
  8. Reduce Derivatives
  9. Catalysis
  10. Design for Degradation
  11. Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention
  12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention

The 9 principles of green engineering:

These principles originated from the Sandestin conference held in 2003 where chemists and engineers from industry, academia, and government met to discuss “Green Engineering: Defining the Principles.” By the end of the conference, they collectively agreed to a set of nine principles, now known as The Sandestin Declaration.

  1. Engineer processes and products holistically, use systems analysis, and integrate environmental impact assessment tools.
  2. Conserve and improve natural ecosystems while protecting human health and well-being.
  3. Use life cycle thinking in all engineering activities.
  4. Ensure that all material and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently safe and benign as possible.
  5. Minimise depletion of natural resources.
  6. Strive to prevent waste.
  7. Develop and apply engineering solutions, while being cognisant of local geography, aspirations, and cultures.
  8. Create engineering solutions beyond current or dominant technologies; improve, innovate, and invent (technologies) to achieve sustainability.
  9. Actively engage communities and stakeholders in development of engineering solution

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